Sure, city festivals take place around the world. Sure, I haven’t been to a huge lot of them, but I certainly know that nothing I have experienced compares to Tamborrada in San Sebastian.
Beginning months in advance, kids, adults, and teenagers (yes, it’s cool) meet weekly to practice the routines, the sheet music, and prepare for 24-hours of drumming. Yes, drumming.
The ceremony begins at midnight on the 19th of January and lasts 24 hours. Of course there’s just enough time to rest between the opening ceremony and the constant performances throughout the city the following day. As beautiful as this tradition is: costumes, music, sense of community – it’s loud. So, if you live near the center, don’t count on sleeping unless you’ve invested in some quality earplugs.
As for the history of this tradition, it’s a bit spotty. Associated with the French occupancy of the Basque country, there are two costumes worn during La Tamborrada: soldiers and chefs. As the French soldiers began their charge into the city they played their drums assuring everyone knew of their presence.
“One day as they did so in 1720 a baker who was filling water barrels from a fountain near the Iglesia de San Vicente (Church of St Vincent) San Sebastian began to sing, and a group of young girls passing by started banging on the barrels as accompaniment. The crowd started to gather and this drum beating knees up which evolved over the last almost 300 years into the spectacle you see today. It also gave rise to Raimundo Sarriegui who created the masterpiece the “March of San Sebastian” which is played to this day.”
Can we be certain? Of course not. But why not embrace the costumes, 24 hours of drumming and another reason to celebrate San Sebastian with endless amounts of drinks surrounded by friends and strangers alike. There’s no good reason not to.